The Government has launched a consultation on how to address the problem of people squatting in buildings. In the foreword to the consultation, the Under-Secretary of State acknowledged that "it is wrong that legitimate occupants should be denied use of their own property" and highlighted the Government's "determination to tackle this problem".
Many property owners may be surprised to learn that squatting is not currently a criminal offence. The usual course is to go through the civil courts, which can be a time consuming and costly exercise. Only dispossessed residential occupiers are entitled to break back into their homes and ask the squatters to leave. A squatter who then fails to leave commits a criminal offence. Owners of commercial properties and owners of properties which are not their own homes commit a criminal offence themselves if they break back into their property when there is a squatter present who is opposed to their entry.
The consultation is aimed at anyone who might be affected by the proposals or who might have experience of using the current laws and procedures to evict squatters. In particular the consultation asks:
- For evidence of the number and nature of squats
- Whether the current laws and procedures to deal with squatters are adequate
- Whether "squatting" should be a new criminal offence
- Whether there should be a distinction between the treatment of squatting in relation to residential and commercial property
The consultation paper can be read in full at: